Attraction (Fantasia 2017)

In any first contact scenario, there are about ten thousand ways for a great many people to end up dead and only a handful of possibilities where things go well. When a first contact begins with an alien ship crash-landing into the heart of a major city like Moscow, as it does in Attraction, the odds of anything good coming out of it go down considerably. To be fair to the aliens, the crash wasn't their fault -- though already damaged, the ship was still doing all right until the Russian military threw missiles at it. By the time the ship finally came to a stop, hundreds of people were dead and hundreds more injured.

Just before disaster struck, Sveta (Darya Rudenok) had been out with her best friend Yulia (Irina Starshenbaum) and Yulia's boyfriend Tyoma (Alexander Petrov) to watch a meteor shower. When Yulia and Tyoma excused themselves for some together time, Sveta was left to die alone, and Yulia can't forgive herself. And this is only one tragedy out of thousands, so as the bulk of the crashed ship still looms over the city, tensions are high and only getting worse.

Yulia's father is Colonel Lebedev (Oleg Menshikov) of the Russian military, and he's suddenly in charge of this disaster in the making. Despite being career military he thinks it's a bad idea to escalate -- though the career civil servants like Mikhail (Nikita Tarasov) don't always agree -- and his restraint puts an extra strain on his relationship with his daughter, already frayed since the death of Yulia's mother. Determined to avenge her dearest friend, Yulia steals a gun and recruits Tyoma and some of his shadier friends to help her sneak into the forbidden zone around the ship.

What could go wrong with a group of teens and twenty-somethings exploring the wreckage of their city while dodging military patrols? Quite a lot, naturally, and when Yulia is almost killed she's rescued by an unexpected ally -- an alien named Hekon (Rinal Mukhametov), who only wants to repair his ship and go home. Now Yulia isn't so confident of what needs to be done, torn between gratitude and revenge, and no longer sure that Tyoma is the best person to help. Along with her brainy classmate Google (Evgeniy Mikheev), she finds herself forced to make decisions that might quite literally affect the entire world.

In summary it seems like a fairly typical alien encounter film, but it actually goes well beyond that and earns four and a half out of five. The use of the "aliens who look exactly like us" trope -- right down to blood types, in this case -- is somewhat unfortunate but forgivable, as Mukhametov brings his alien character to life in a way that seems very human at times. Yulia is a strong and convincing lead -- a real person with real foibles such as an apparent addiction to practical jokes. Her very personal struggle to find the best option in a sea of bad choices, and the fraught relationship between her and her father, create a compelling backdrop to the larger crisis. The entire community is convincing -- even the minor characters get chances to shine. In short, it's a sci-fi movie that doesn't forget to be human.

The colonel & the bureaucrat meet an alien. Nothing like a little first contact.


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